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Power: What It Is And How To Get It!

Power is not simply about having the strength to pick up a car and carry it across a driveway. Power is a combination of two important aspects of any kind of training. Continue reading to find out more.

People usually associate power with the thought of some 300-pound Paul Bunyan looking cat struggling underneath a bar-bending load of iron - Or a strongman on ESPN picking up a car and hauling it across a parking lot - all the while looking like he's going to burst in two. When the average person hears the word power, this is what they typically think of.

Speed As Well As Force

Actually, power is just as dependent upon speed as it is force. It is synonymous with speed-strength or explosive strength, the holy grail among those who desire athletic greatness.

  • A sprinter displays power with each foot-strike into the ground as he accelerates down the track.

  • A baseball pitcher displays power when he throws a pitch.

  • A jumper displays power when he jumps. The list goes on and on.

Sprinting, Pitching & Jumping:
They All Require Explosive Strength

In fact, because sports movements rely on a combination of force as well as speed, they inherently require more power, and the athletes engaging in them often display more power than the guy who lifts a huge load of iron.

Now what's so important about all of this? Well if you're interested in explosiveness, an increase in your ability to produce power will give it to you!

What Contributes To Power?

Let's sit down and determine exactly what contributes to power. Power is equal to force multiplied by distance divided by time.

That's too difficult, let's simplify it even more.

Since the terms force and strength are often used interchangeably and distance divided by time is the same thing as speed, power can more simply be defined as strength multiplied by speed. Therefore ...

Don't Neglect Either Side

    If you draw a line from left to right and write "speed" on one side and "strength" on the other side, power would lie just about smack dab in the middle. Since strength and speed are components of power, increasing one while neglecting the other limits total power development.

    Unfortunately, many players focus too much on one side while neglecting the other. Because strength and speed have a multiplicative impact on power, athletes can make greater gains if they develop both components and faster gains if they figure out which one is the greatest weakness for them and train accordingly.

      For example, if a strength score for an athlete was 2, and the athlete's speed score was also 2, his power rating would be:

        2(speed) x 2(strength) = 4 (power)

      Doubling the athlete's speed without altering strength would also double his power:

        4(speed) x 2(strength) = 8(power)

      If the same athlete made a 50 percent gain in both speed and strength his power rating would be:

        3(speed) x 3(strength) = 9 (power)

    So it should be obvious an increase in power will result if you either increase speed, strength or both. An optimal balance is the key because having or training for too much of one (speed or strength) will tend to cause the other one to decline, which you obviously don't want.

Quickness & Absolute Speed Vs Sports Speed & Explosiveness!
To fully understand the relationship between absolute speed, and their relationship to the demonstrations of speed, as we see in sport, it helps to view the body as 2 separate systems.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Power Development

Basically there are 3 ways to address power development. You can:

  1. Focus on the "speed" side of the line. Examples are: plyometric exercises, loadless (bodyweight) exercises, medicine ball tosses, and weight training using 40% of your max or less performed with great acceleration.

  2. Focus on exercises that inherently require both speed and strength. (a mix of speed and strength)These include common exercises like the squat and bench press using loads of around 50-65% of max weight performed with great acceleration, or exercises like the Olympic lifts which inherently require quick execution to perform correctly with loads around 80 percent of your max. These also can correctly be called "power exercises".

Athletes And The Olympic Lifts!
Let's get into Olympic lifting, and try to discern whether there's something there for athletes from other sports to benefit from.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

  1. Focus on the "strength" side of the line. This could take the form of 2 approaches. They are:

    1. Using 80-90% of your max in a given exercise for multiple sets of low repetitions.

    2. Using 60-80% of your max for higher reps in an effort to induce muscle growth.

Focus On Weakness

    Now with so many options to choose from which approach should you follow? It's really simple. The optimal approach requires addressing your weak point, whether it is speed or strength (1 or 3 depending on your weakness) and focusing on your weak area while mixing in optimal amounts of exercises in the #2 middle "power" category that inherently require optimal amounts of both speed and strength.

    The goal is to boost power which lies in the middle in between speed and strength. But to do that can require different approaches for different people.

    Speed Deficient

      So if you were "speed" deficient your program would best focus on speed training, bodyweight type plyometric exercises, and low load accelerative weight training from group #1 to focus on your speed deficiency; along with performing explosive lifts with 50-70% of your max (group #2 power exercises), while performing enough heavy strength training to maintain your strength.

      This would allow you to boost the "speed" side of the speed x strength = power equation while keeping the other side constant or even increasing it, which would result in a dramatic increase in power.

    Strength Deficient

      If you were "strength" deficient your program would have you focusing on strength training exercises (group #3), while mixing in optimal amounts of middle ground power exercises from group #2.

      This would allow you to boost your strength deficiency and boost the strength side of the speed x strength = power equation, while keeping the other side constant or even increasing it, which would also result in a dramatic increase in power.


      The result in either case is that you now have greater amounts of power and thus more explosiveness, speed, jumping ability, throwing ability or whatever aspect of explosiveness you need.

      This is how 2 different athletes with the same sporting goals can improve, or arrive at the same point through different training means. Now is that an earful or what?

Where Do You Require The Most Work?

I Could Use Work On Both.

For now I will leave you with that to ponder. In future articles I'll delve into this deeper explaining how to assess your deficiencies and how to set up an optimal schedule depending on where you should focus your efforts.

If you have any questions feel free to email me at:


  1. Hatfield, F.C. (Ed.)(1998). Fitness: The Complete Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: International Sports Sciences Association.

  2. Mel C. Siff, Yuri V. Verkhoshansky, "Supertraining" 1999.

  3. Zatsiorsky, V. "Science and Practice of Strength Training" 1995